GOP Blocks New Iran Sanctions Bill, Insisting on Including Threat of War

Democrats constructed a hawkish bill to punish Iran for nuclear weapons it doesn't have, but Republicans want tougher language

by John Glaser, May 17, 2012

Senate Republicans delayed a vote on Thursday that would have increased the already harsh economic sanctions on Iran’s oil sector, arguing for the inclusion of tougher language that threatens military attack.

“I feel I’ve been jerked around,” Democratic Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor after the Republicans blocked the vote. .

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said that his staff did not receive a draft of the bill until late on Wednesday night, and needed more time to review it.

“There is no reason in the world why we can’t resolve whatever differences we have and move forward. We certainly don’t want to take a step backward, and there are members on my side of the aisle who are concerned that the way the measure is currently crafted could actually be a step in the wrong direction,” McConnell said.

The truth is that many in the GOP’s leadership want the bill to include tougher language, specifically an explicit threat of military attack. Sen. Lindsey Graham said adding the language would “send an appropriate” signal to Iran.

“I just want to add one simple line that says we recognize what the president was saying that military force is also an option,” Graham said.

“The problem I have is that it is silent on a concept that we all agree on and I don’t want to create a document before negotiations on Tuesday that doesn’t include something beyond sanctions to change the Iranian behavior we all want to avoid,” he said.

An aide to a Republican senator said, “We’re sending a signal to the Iranians that unless we see a halt to all enrichment activities, we’re coming at you with another sanctions bill,” he said. Notably, developing nuclear weapons is not the GOP’s red line on Iran. Since Iran isn’t developing nuclear weapons, they’ve moved the red line to something Iran is doing (peaceful nuclear enrichment).

The effort by the most hawkish people in Congress to force Iran to give up its legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes or else face attack may be the most ominous pull toward war. Although Graham is right that President Obama has explicitly left unprovoked attack on the table, the notion that America needs to go to war with Iran when it poses to conceivable threat is pathologically destructive policy-making.

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